This engagement program was designed to be co-delivered with First Nations people with a strong focus on local water stories.
This case study aims to highlight a novel approach that has been developed by Power and Water Corporation to engage with First Nations communities through schools in order to help children and their families to recognise their ownership of their community water source and to encourage them to take ownership of their own water use actions.
The engagement program is designed to be co-delivered with First Nations people with a strong focus on local water stories.
As outlined in this case study, effective engagement and participation of First Nations peoples can have a positive impact on social and emotional wellbeing outcomes for First Nations peoples and their communities. It also demonstrates that trust and relationship building take time and underpin any genuine engagement activity.
Context and background
Power and Water Corporation supplies and maintains drinking water systems to 72 remote communities across the NT, servicing a disparate population of about 40,000 people.
Additional growth in these communities is anticipated with development required, however approximately 25 of these communities are experiencing water source limitations and have a ‘high’ to ‘extreme’ risk of water source failure, this makes growth and development complex.
Power and Water Corporation is working with people in remote communities to reduce unnecessary water demand in order to improve sustainability in its highest risk communities. Achieving this will enable continued service delivery and could free up capacity for future development so communities can thrive.
Leakage, both in the distribution networks as well as in houses and commercial properties, is a big problem within remote communities. A large amount of water that is pumped into many remote communities is consumed by continuous flows rather than active usage by community members. These communities are often long distances from maintenance personnel so simple repairs become complex and expensive to undertake due to mobilisation costs alone. Some of the biggest challenges in keeping water demand to a sustainable level are pin pointing these water leaks in community reticulation networks or customer fixtures and having them repaired promptly and appropriately.
One of the great places to reach a lot of people in the community is through schools, which often are the central meeting place for people and most families are connected to the school in some way.
Last year, Power and Water Corporation expanded its That’s My Water! urban schools’ program to remote communities through the That’s My Water! Bush Schools Program – a curriculum unit aimed specifically at Territory students living in the bush: https://www.powerwater.com.au/about/community/thats-my-water-bush-schools.
Throughout 2021-22, the That’s My Water! Bush Schools Program was delivered across six of NT’s highest water-stressed communities: Atitjere, Engawala, Numbulwar, Warruwi, Yuelamu and Yuendumu.
The program takes students, teachers, and Elders on a water journey from cloud to cup. Helping them to uncover their ownership of their community water source and encourage them to better understand their own water use actions.
Key themes investigated in the program are the cultural significance of water for communities, the contemporary ‘Power and Water’ water story in their community, and what people can do today to help make their water supply more sustainable, enabling growth in their community.
This year, Power and Water partnered with House of Darwin (a Darwin-based Aboriginal-owned social enterprise) to create community specific t-shirts for students and teachers participating in That’s My Water! Bush Schools Program. These t-shirts feature artwork that students can wear and that will assist them to explain the community message to their friends and families. It depicts a visual story about how and why to save water in their specific community.
Critical success factors
- The program is accessible to students and teachers – online content that is downloadable and can be delivered by teachers in small chunks without Power and Water Corporation being on site (difficult to do in 72 remote communities!).
- Curriculum based, rich content that is engaging and familiar – Baker Boy and short, attractive videos and participatory learning experiences developed for this audience: https://youtu.be/dq4VTTXFXqA .
- Community-specific – inquiry-based learning that is applicable to their community, encourages students and teachers to find out more.
Benefits and outcomes
- Raises the perceived value of water, meaning residents become aware water is precious and motivated to make choices to look after it.
- Residents equipped with ways to save water immediately in their community.
- Improved connections between students and elders in the community and the community and Power and Water, facilitating cultural knowledge-sharing.
- Increased trust in Power and Water Corporation as a service provider.
Conclusion and key points
By equipping residents in remote communities with information about their local water story and why it is important to make good water choices (and finding and reporting leaks), residents in remote communities become advocates for water efficiency and additional ‘eyes on the ground’ in the search for every last drop.
This case study was developed by Power and Water Corporation’s Demand Management Team (Cail Rayment, Joel Spry and Kylie Climie) in collaboration with Eric Vanweydeveld (Director of Aquanex Pty Ltd).